Mămăligă is the national dish of Moldova: much-loved, and steeped in tradition. The dish is simple and quick to make, and is hearty, very nutritious and extremely versatile.

Preparation Time: 5 minutesCooking Time: 10 minutes
Difficulty: EasyServes: 4


  • 300g/10.5oz/2 cups of cornmeal
  • 940ml/1 1/2 pt/4 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Sheep’s cheese (optional)

Make it vegan: the Mămăligă on its own is already vegan but a lot of its traditional accompaniments aren’t. Luckily there are some great online recipes for vegan sour cream, sheep’s cheese and Paprikash which can be served with Mămăligă instead.

Special Equipment

  • A metal cooking pot
  • A wooden spoon
  • A sharp knife or cheese wire


  1. Pour the water into the metal pot and place it over a medium-high temperature. Bring it to a gentle simmer and add the salt.
  2. Slowly pour the cornmeal into the simmering water while stirring. Keep stirring for a few minutes, until there are no lumps and the mixture is a little thickened.
  3. Turn the heat down as low as it will go and cover the pot. Cook for another ten minutes, stirring occasionally and adding water if it looks like it might burn.
  4. When the mixture comes together and comes away from the sides, take it off the heat.
  5. The Mămăligă can be poured into bowls straight away while it’s hot, and eaten like porridge. Alternatively, pour it onto a wooden board and shape it into a flat circle, and allow it to dry and harden for a couple of minutes. Then use cheese wire or a very fine knife to cut it into slices.
  6. Serve the Mămăligă with sour cream and sheep’s cheese if desired, or as a side with a meat dish like Paprikash.
  7. Poftă bună!


  • Serve with sour cream and/or Telemea (sheep’s cheese)
  • You can eat Mămăligă straight off the stove, like porridge. Or you can leave it to cool down and harden, in which case it can be cut and eaten like bread


Pronunciation: /məməˈliɡə/ (mamma-leega)

Home: Moldova, Romania

Relatives: Polenta (Italy), Bulz (Romania), Kačamak (Bulgaria)

Mămăligă is the national dish of both Moldova and Romania. It’s integral to the two counties’ culinary identities, and is also popular in Eastern Galicia and parts of the Caucasus- as well as internationally, in places exposed to the dish by Bessarabian expats.

Mămăligă is actually a relatively new dish. In Roman times, mullet flour porridge was popular in Bessarabia, and this remained popular for centuries. Corn (maize) wouldn’t be introduced to Europe until the 16th century, when Hernan Cortez brought it back to Spain from Mexico. Corn arrived in Bessarabia via Venice nearly a century later, during the reign of Constantin Duca. Corn quickly became integral to the Principality of Moldavia’s cuisine. Its availability helped combat regional famines in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially since the Ottoman Empire didn’t tax it, and eventually corn Mămăligă replaced millet flour porridge as the staple food of the region. As a pareve food, durable enough to be made a day in advance, Mămăligă became particularly popular with Jewish Moldovans and Romanians. It’s regional prominence was presumably well known by 1897, when Bram Stoker’s Dracula was published. In the novel, solicitor Jonathan Harker visits Count Dracula in Transylvania, and is served ‘a sort of porridge of maize flour which they said was Mămăligă’, which is complimented with paprika and impletata. (Stoker never actually visited Transylvania or the surrounding region, but he had researched the area’s folklore and culture.)

Mămăligă remains a staple food in Moldova and Romania. It comes in many varieties: it can be eaten on its own, flavoured with cheese and spices, or served a side dish to a main, in place of bread or rice. It can be served as a ‘cake’, or as porridge, or in balls. It’s so cherished and so versatile that it’s popular across Moldovan and Romanian society: it’s traditionally a cheap, unpretentious peasant food, hence the saying, ‘he’s so poor he can’t even afford Mămăligă!’, but it’s also served to tourists and locals alike in Chisinau and Bucharest’s most upscale restaurants. So give it a try- it’s very good for you! Aside from water and a little salt the only ingredient is corn, which is very nutrient rich. The only rule is- eat the Mămăligă when it’s hot!

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